1. Family Time
Our trip to the Galapagos was above all a family trip, made possible by my dad. We lost my mom a couple of years ago and this trip was in many ways in her honor. The chance to spend ten days with all of us together is rare, and the fact that we were able to do so in such an amazing place was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For me it was a nice time to grow into the new shape our family has taken. Here are lots of shots of us posing for pictures.
Many of the photos I'm posting were taken by my sister Laura; you can see many more of here awesome photos here. Many photos credits go to Hannes as well. The ones where our feet are cut off - those can be credited to an enthusiastic fellow cruise-goer.
My parents were always enthusiastic bird watchers and I think that's one of the reasons the idea for this trip came about. I don't consider myself a bird watcher per se but I always enjoyed joining along on my parents' bird watching outings, especially since my dad would carry the (heavy) bird telescope, which I then got to benefit from without any of the work. What was amazing about the birds in the Galapagos was not only the types of birds found there, but how close you got to them. This was true for all the wildlife, actually, but in some ways it was more remarkable for the birds, precisely because I'm used to needing a telescope to see them well. My favorites were the Red-footed Boobies and the Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Ooh, and the penguins too! Those finches that Darwin got so excited about? They were the least interesting, mostly small and brown. Then again, I'm no evolutionary biologist.
3. Creatures of the Land
I joked with friends before the trip that I would come back with 1,000 pictures of turtles (by which I meant tortoises) and it's kind of true. My favorite land reptiles, though, were the marine iguanas, which were everywhere. They pile all up on top of one another and make funny nodding movements with their heads - they're really quite cute considering their spiky faces and scaly skin. Land iguanas were also cool but much more elusive so I didn't get much of a chance to form an attachment to them.
Check out this video that Hannes took of some male tortoises having a little territorial dispute. It was mating season, but here there were no ladies around at this moment - they're all male. It's crazy how they move, it seems so prehistoric. The video was taken at a breeding center for tortoises where they move freely over quite a large area. The babies hatched are eventually released to the wild.
4. Creatures of the Sea
The marine life in the Galapagos is what I found most amazing. It's also least well-represented by photos, since none of us had an underwater camera. The snorkeling was amazing, I saw so many sea turtles and they were so close by - I could just float in one spot and see 5 turtles around me, lazily swimming and feeding on the rocks. I also loved seeing the rays - the golden rays would swim together in packs and were quite graceful. We also had underwater visits by swimming penguins and sea lions, and of course there were tons of fish. There were also a couple of brief sightings of (small) sharks. Also amazing: from the cruise boat one night around sunset, there must have been hundreds of dolphins jumping in the waves at least 180 degrees around us. Hannes deemed it "too romantic." I've never seen that many dolphins at once (or in total, actually) in my life.
5. Volcanic landscapes
Okay, nobody who goes to the Galapagos goes for the landscapes - they go for the wildlife. But the islands are definitely beautiful, often in a barren way - all are volcanic and started their lives as piles of lava. The younger islands have only sparse vegetation, and the older ones are more green. None of them are what you'd picture when you think "tropical island" although we did visit a couple of gorgeous white sand beaches.